In 1999 there were two things that were on the tip of every person’s tongue; Y2K, and Keanu Reeves. Y2K was quickly realised to be a hoax (only after bomb shelter construction skyrocketed). But the world still hasn’t found a cure for Keanu Reeves. A man so likeable, there seems to be no stopping him. The Matrix Resurrections allows Reeves the opportunity to dust off the zeroes and ones to return to one of his most important roles.
When The Matrix, written and directed by The Wachowski Siblings, was first released, audiences were stunned by what they were seeing. Action movies had come before but The Matrix was something else entirely. Well-choreographed, action-heavy stunt sequences blended together with heady themes and questions that belonged in a philosophy lecture. Free will? The illusion of life? Heavy subject matter for people who just wanted something to pass the time while they chewed popcorn. It also brought about a modern interpretation as to the dangers of technology. If The Terminator did this in the 1980s, then The Matrix acted as a fear invoking successor.
Two sequels followed, with both The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions arriving in 2001. The bona fide masterpiece status of the original became dampened and weighed down by the newer additions. Their multitude of issues led to the franchise ending on an anti-climax. That was the last audiences had heard of the matter until 2019 when the fourth film was surprisingly announced. The surprise mainly came down to one question: who asked for it?
In a way it makes sense to return to the old stomping ground. A new film could reinvigorate the franchise and create a new legion of fans that would ensure some sort of future for the series. However, not only does this new film fail to do any of this, it may be even more damaging to the legacy than Revolutions ever was. The film can be best compared to a great recipe for a dish. The elements are there and when examined individually, what’s not to like? However, its when these elements blend together to create a finished product that will leave more questions than answers. Lana Wachowski may have been a part of the duo that created The Matrix, but the film is left feeling strangely empty. A void is created. Where once the original film posed questions and provided entertaining choreography to back it up, The Matrix Resurrections fumbles in virtually every way.
The lack of hype surrounding The Matrix Resurrections should provide some form of damage control. Even the lack of the full Wachowski partnership may mean that this film can be swept under the rug as not being a true representation of the original duo’s efforts. However, the film is at its worst when it dismantles what came before in an effort to present a differing version of the series’ story. It hopes to rinse the taste of Revolutions out of the mouth of the viewer, but replaces it with something even die-hard fans may pause at before stomaching. What begins as an interesting look at the dependency of reboots and sequels/prequels, ends up feeling like a desperate attempt to appeal to viewers for allowing the makers to indulge themselves.
In saying all of this, there are elements of the film that can be seen as some form of redeeming quality. Firstly, Jonathan Groff is terrific in his limited time. As is Jessica Henwick whose presence is refreshing. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is also entertaining in parts where he isn’t forced to deliver some questionable exposition. If anything, these actors heighten what is put before them. Keanu Reeves is possibly the internet’s favourite human and he does indeed try to elevate the material. If nothing else, the performance he gives is what you come to expect from him in his post-John Wick days. (One could only wish he brought some of the choreographer team from Wick to Resurrections.) The opening thirty minutes is the highlight of the film for sure. Again, some ideas when focused on individually make for a more interesting discussion than the sum of all of its parts.
Endings are a difficult thing. While this film’s ending may leave you feeling bereft, it is important to remember that the trilogy has already had an ending. It may have been anti-climactic at the time, but when compared with Resurrections, this writer knows which ending they’d prefer. While Revolutions was problematic, it still retained the artistic vision that was present from the first film. The ending to this film does not achieve the emotional resonance that it is aiming for. One cannot even call any of it fan service as any objective fan of the franchise would not ask for what they are given. In the end, one thing is clear: Keanu Reeves seemed to have had fun, and that can provide solace to a lot of people.
The Matrix Resurrections is playing in cinemas now